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1. Cognitive Approach Another advanced test of theory of mind: Evidence from high functioning adults with Autism or Asperger syndrome. 2. What is Autism? Childhood autism…
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  • 1. Cognitive Approach Another advanced test of theory of mind: Evidence from high functioning adults with Autism or Asperger syndrome.
  • 2. What is Autism? Childhood autism is a severe developmental disorder which effects the social functioning of individuals. Autistic individuals are described as having a triad (3) of impairments: 1. Impairments in social interaction: 2. Impairments in communication: 3. Repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour: What causes Autism? Many theories have been put forward to explain the causes of autism. Social Genetics Kanner originally suggested cold The fact that siblings of autistic and uncaring parenting styles children are far more likely to were the cause of the disorder, develop autism than siblings of non although this has now been autistic children shows evidence of discounted. genetic causality. Nurture Nature
  • 3. A recent development in the understanding of autism is the notion of theory of mind. Mind Blindness What is Theory of Mind? The inability to read what others Autistic individuals are sometimes described as having are thinking Mind Blindness as they appear to be unable to read minds. The ability to read minds or to make inferences about Theory of mind what other people believe to be the case in any given The ability to situation allows us to predict what they will do. understand and predict what other Lacking this basic ability would make social interaction people think and very difficult indeed and the absence of a theory of feel mind would explain the core deficits of autism. Baron-Cohen’s study involved using 3 groups of participants: • Participants of normal intelligence with Autism or Asperger syndrome. • ‘Normal’ adults • Participants with Tourette syndrome. Find out some Key features/facts of each of the disorders. Autism Asperger Syndrome Tourette Syndrome
  • 4. Reductionism – In focusing on a cognitive explanation of autism, reducing the Baron-Cohen rejected all other explanations of autism. nature of complex things down into Baron-Cohen wanted to demonstrate that autism was not the interaction of due to intellectual impairments but was the result of a their parts failure to develop a specific cognitive skill – theory of mind. How has Theory of mind been tested? • The Sally-Ann Test: • Strange Stories Task (Happè 1994):
  • 5. Another advanced test of the theory of mind: evidence from high functioning adults with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Aim: To find out why adults with autism have problems with social relationships and to develop an advanced test for theory of mind in adults with autism. To show that an impaired theory of mind Similarities was a specific disorder associated with *They all had intelligence in autistic spectrum disorders, this group the normal range. was compared with a clinical control *They had all suffered from a group of adults with Tourette Syndrome. developmental disorder since Why? childhood. Because of the number of similarities *These disorders all cause these participants had with the disruptions to normal schooling participants with Autism and Asperger and peer relations. syndrome. *These disorders are all believed to affect the same area of the brain. *These disorders all Secondary Aim: To investigate whether females would be better than males on this test of theory of mind. The Hypothesis: Adults with Asperger syndrome/Autism can not interpret states of mind from ‘reading eyes’. The independent variable was the three different IV – The groups of participants (autistic, tourette, normal). variable that is manipulated The dependant variable was performance on an advanced test of theory of mind (eyes task). DV- The variable that is measured.
  • 6. Method: Quasi experiment with a matched participant design. Quasi experiment Since participants were allocated to the three Conditions Where the depending on whether they were Autistic/ AS, normal, independent variable Tourettes. is not manipulated and forms naturally Participants: groups of participants were tested. Participants with high functioning Autism (4) or Aspergers (12). 13Males, 3 females. All were of normal intelligence (mean IQ = 105.31). Recruited from a variety of sources, as well as an advert in the national Autistic Society magazine ‘communication’. Normal age-matched adults, 25 males, 25 females. All drawn from the general population of Cambridge. Non had any history of any psychiatric condition (established by self report). They were selected randomly from a subject panel held in the university department. They were all assumed to have a normal intelligence in the normal range i.e. an IQ above 85. with Tourette syndrome, aged matched with Autism group. 8 males, 2 females (mirroring the sex ratio of group 1). They were all attending a referral centre in London (mean IQ = 103.5). EVALUATE
  • 7. All participants in the autism or tourette group were able to pass the first and second-order false belief (TOM) tasks. This meant that any failure on ‘the Eyes Task’ could be attributed to problems with misreading problems beyond that of a six year old. It was expected that only participants in the austism group would be significantly impaired on the ‘Eyes Task’. Location: The participants were individually tested in a quiet room in their own home, in the researchers’ clinic or in the laboratory at Cambridge University + - + - + - Task: The Eyes task, the strange situation and two control tasks were presented in random order Explain why
  • 8. Procedure: 1) The Eyes Task: The test comprises of photographs of the eye region of 25 different faces (male and female). The photos were taken from magazines and were standardized: same size (15x10cm), all black and white and all of Forced the same region. choice questions Each picture was shown for 3 seconds and participants were given Answers are forced choice question – they had to select between two mental state chosen from terms printed under the picture. These mental state terms were either set ‘basic’ (e.g. sad or afraid) or ‘complex’ (e.g. arrogant or scheming). responses The two terms for each photo were one mental state and one ‘foil’ i.e. a term with the opposite meaning – e.g. concerned and unconcerned, or Foil friendly and hostile. A term (A full set of mental states and foils is after the test yourself with the questions). opposite The experimenter asked ‘which word best describes what this person meaning is thinking or feeling?’ maximum score =25. Sample test pictures 2) Strange Situation Task: Autism and Tourettes group were also tested on Happè’s Strange stories task in order to demonstrate the validity of the Eyes Task as a test for Theory of mind. If the performance on the eyes task and the strange situation correlated then this would indicate it tested theory of mind.
  • 9. 3) Control Task: To check whether the difficulties with the Eyes Task might be due to other factors autistic participants were given two control tasks: * Gender Recognition of Eyes * Basic Emotion Recognition Task: Task: Identifying the gender of the eyes Participants were asked to judge used for the Eyes Task. Such a photos of whole faces which judgment does not involve displayed the six basic emotions misreading but does involve face indentified by Ekman (1992) – happy, perception, perceptual sad, angry, afraid, disgust and discrimination and/or social surprise. perception. Therefore it controls This was done to check if difficulties for any difficulties in those areas. on The Eyes Task was due to Maximum score 25. difficulties with basic emotional recognition. Results: Eyes Task – participants from the Tourette group did not differ from the Normal participants. The control groups performed significantly better than the Autism group. Strange Stories – Participants in the Tourette group made no errors. Autism group made errors and were significantly impaired on this task compared to the controls. Gender and emotion task – there were no real differences between the groups. Mean performance on the Eyes Task and Gender Recognition Task Eyes Task Autistic/AS Normal Tourette Mean 16.3 20.3 20.4 Range 10 9 9 Gender Task 24.1 23.3 23.7
  • 10. Do females have a more advanced theory of mind? Results: In the normal group, female participants performed significantly better than males on the Eyes Task: Mean performance by males and females in the normal group Gender Eyes Task Eyes Task Gender Mean Range Control Males (25) 18.8 6 24.0 Females (25) 21.8 5 23.8 Overall the results show: *Adults with autism/AS were impaired on a TOM despite having normal intelligence. * Within the normal population females do better on this test of TOM than males. The Autism/AS impairment is NOT due to: * Low intelligence as performance on the Eyes Task was not correlated with IQ. * The result of just any developmental neuropsychiatric disability Neuropsychiatric as Tourette participants were unimpaired on the test. Refers to a Mental disorder * Having difficultly interpreting context – there was no context so which has a this was a relatively pure TOM task. neurological or ‘brain’ component Additionally: * No support for a link between TOM and frontal brain processing. Tourette participants had no greater difficulty than normal participants.
  • 11. Conclusion: Baron-Cohen confirmed that adults with autism/AS, despite being of normal or above average IQ, performed poorly on the Eyes Task, an advanced test for theory of mind. Baron-Cohen concluded that the core deficit involved in autism is the lack of an advanced theory of mind. Justification for this conclusion: Poor performance was not due to poor intelligence as all Poor performance could NOT have participants were normal or above been due to having a normal IQ. developmental neuropsychiatric disability because participants with This strongly suggests that social Tourettes were unimpaired on this cognition is independent of task. general intelligence. Was The Eyes Task valid? The researchers claim that the Eyes Task was a valid measure of theory of mind. Validity Does it measure, what it has set * The target words are mental state terms. out to measure. * The target words are not just emotional states but include terms describing cognitive mental states, suggesting that this task is not just an emotion perception task. * The pattern of results from the Eyes task mirror those of the strange stories task, another advanced test for theory of mind. * The poor performance on the Eyes Task was not mirrored on the two control tasks, suggesting that poor performance is not due to the stimuli being eyes, or to basic emotion recognition. Reasoning for there being a gender difference May be genetic and reflect the May be due to females being socialized developmental differences in differently from males, encouraging them males and females to pay more attention to what others are thinking.
  • 12. When evaluating this study you must consider the following: Was the study ecologically valid? Were any ethical issues raised? Are there any methodological limitations? What does the study tell us about the nature/nurture debate?
  • 13. What type of data was gathered? Are there any strengths and weaknesses? How reliable are the findings? How valid are the findings? Can the study be considered reductionist? Can the findings be of this study be of any use?
  • 14. 1. Identify TWO features of the sample used in this study [2] 2. How were participants matched in this study [2] 3. (a) Identify the TWO control groups used in this study [2] (b) Explain why ONE of these control groups was used [2] 4. Explain what is meant by the term ‘theory of mind’ [2] 5. (a) Describe ONE of the control tasks used in this study [2] (b) Outline the findings from this study [2] 6. Describe the Eyes Task as used in this study [4] 7. Mean performance on the Eyes Task and Gender Recognition Task Eyes Task Autistic/AS Normal Tourette Mean 16.3 20.3 20.4 Range 10 9 9 Gender Task 24.1 23.3 23.7 (a) Use the above table to draw a graph if the three groups of participants’ mean performance on the Eyes Task and gender recognition task [4] (b) Draw a conclusion from your graph [2]
  • 15. 8. Mean performance by males and females in the normal group Gender Eyes Task Eyes Task Gender Mean Range Control Males (25) 18.8 6 24.0 Females (25) 21.8 5 23.8 Draw ONE conclusion from the above table which gives the mean performance by normal males and females on the Eyes Task [2] 9. (a) Explain what is meant by the term ‘ecological validity’ [2] (b) Explain in what way this study may be described as lacking in ecological validity [2] 10. Suggest ONE practical application of this study [2] Total [32] These are a full set of mental states and their foils. Note that they contain both complex and basic mental states.
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